Market Day

Today was much more relaxed than yesterday. I was feeling quite tired (more from the stress of the return journey than the walking) and took my time before setting off. I retraced my steps of yesterday but, instead of getting off at Maras, I took the collectivo as far as Chinchero where there were more Inca ruins and a Sunday market.

Sunday market in Huaracondo
Sunday market in Huaracondo
How many people can get in this van?
How many people can get in this van?

Sunday seems to be a main market day everywhere. In Huaracondo, there were a few ladies selling their produce around the plaza as well as a number of food stalls, principally selling roast pig. There was also a huge market in Izcuchaca, which I had intended to visit on my return from Chinchero but, by the time I arrived back, I didn’t feel like going.

The market in Chinchero
The market in Chinchero
A local lady in Chinchero
A local lady in Chinchero

The market in Chinchero is a mix of tourist and local produce. There were obviously many people coming from the surrounding villages for a social occasion as there were groups of people sitting around eating and drinking chicha. However, there were also a number of tourist vans lined up in the parking area.

I had a quick look at the market but very quickly tired of the number of ladies trying to sell me their products. If only they learned not to hassle they might get some more sales but I, for one, walk away as soon as they start. It is impossible just to look and then decide on something you like before the bargaining begins. Even just looking, prompts the question ‘how much do you want to give?’.

Exterior of the church in Chinchero
Exterior of the church in Chinchero
Playing football on the Inca terrace
Playing football on the Inca terrace

Instead, I headed up the hill towards the ruins. At the top, there was a very unprepossessing looking church but, when I went in, (fortunately it was actually open), it was quite extraordinary with painted ceilings, walls and even roof beams. There were also some South American influenced religious paintings and a fair amount of gold in the altar. I was very glad to have been able to see it.

Afterwards, I sat and watched men playing football on one of the Inca terraces, the walls on two sides making good stops for the ball. Once the ball went over the edge of the terrace, though, it seemed to indicate that the game was at an end.

Women's meeting in the ruins at Chinchero
Women’s meeting in the ruins at Chinchero

In the meantime, the ladies appeared to be having a meeting in one of the old Inca ‘rooms’. When I returned after walking through the ruins, the men and women had joined together for lunch but the women were in one ‘room’ and the men in an adjoining one, which I thought was quite funny.

The ruins were much more extensive than at first appearance. As per usual, there were terraces on the steep hillside and the setting was beautiful. At the far end, were some rocks with wedges cut out of them and one large rock even had steps as well. No one really knows how, what or why these wedges were made. In the very large rock, there was a much bigger wedge that, according to legend, was the Inca Doorway to the other world.

Lunch on the terraces!
Lunch on the terraces!
Ilda the weaver
Ilda the weaver

On my way back down the hillside, I stopped at a weaving shop that Lyle had told me about and Ilda (or maybe Hilda as the Spanish never pronounce their ‘h’s), showed me her weaving and told me about the significance of the colours. They dye all their own wool using plants or insects, spin it and then weave it into traditional patterns. She was stitching the border of a table runner when I arrived, which looked very time consuming and laborious.

Naturally, I had to buy something. I always prefer to buy from the maker than in the market place, where the item could have been made by anyone. As I didn’t have enough cash on me and my credit card doesn’t seem to work in Peru, she said she would deliver it to me this evening and collect the cash. This she did and I am now the proud owner of an expensive alpaca table runner! She also got an order from Lyle and Lily so it was definitely worth her while doing the delivery. (And, for the record, there were no mates rates and she didn’t budge much on her price!)

Wool dyed with plants at the weaving place
Wool dyed with plants at the weaving place
The main street of Izcuchaca
The main street of Izcuchaca

The journey back to Huaracondo was much more straight forward than that of yesterday. After a little wander in Izcuchaca, which was thronging with people and traffic, buying a cheap bottle of wine, which turned out to be almost undrinkable, and a doughnut (edible), I managed to find the collectivo station by watching departing Huaracondo collectivos and seeing from where they emerged.

Moto drivers seem to create their own designs!
Moto drivers seem to create their own designs!

Back at the village, I tried the roast pig, which was very tasty, although a large amount of fat came with it. It was accompanied by a dry flat bread roll. The bread here is not exactly wonderful. This kept me going until dinner, which, for once, we ate at the table with the mother and son from Bogota, who had also been staying the last couple of nights. I had previously had dinner on my lap in front of the television as it was only Lyle and me, Lily having taken the other two on a tour.

Collectivo station in Izcuchaca
Collectivo station in Izcuchaca

It is all about the journey, not the destination!

Today was one of those days when it was all about the journey rather than the destination, although I didn’t know this when I set out. After breakfast, I pottered for a while before starting on my adventure to get to Moray and Maras. This required 4 separate collectivos and 2 hours to reach Moray, which is another Inca site.

The turn off to Maras
The turn off to Maras

The first leg of the trip was from Huaracondo to Izcuchaca. This was the easy part. At Izcuchaca, I had to go on the hunt for the collectivo station from where cars/collectivos departed for Cusco that would drop me off at a crossroads outside Poroy. It took a bit of time to find the right place but, eventually, I was on my way in a station wagon type of vehicle in which several people were crammed in the luggage space. At the junction, I just had to stand at the roadside and wait for a passing collectivo to stop. It only took a couple of minutes!

On the road to Maras
On the road to Maras

Half an hour later and I was dropped off at the turnoff to Maras from where it was a 4km walk. Apparently, there are sometimes taxis waiting but, today, there were none, so I started walking. It was a beautiful day and the countryside was spectacular. However, it wasn’t long before another collectivo stopped and I could get a ride to Moray, about 13km away, beyond Maras, along a very dusty road.

Circular terraces at Moray
Circular terraces at Moray

On arrival, I was charged 10 soles but the driver wanted 25 soles for the return trip, which, surprisingly, I declined! I had a wander around the site, which is a set of 3 circular terraced bowls that were probably used for agricultural experiments. As with all Inca sites, there is much speculation about their purpose as the Incas did not leave any written records. I have to confess that I could only find 2 of these bowls despite following the signs for the third. I was either being blind or the third one was an illusion!

The Inca ruins at Moray
The Inca ruins at Moray
The second circular 'bowl' at Moray
The second circular ‘bowl’ at Moray

Moray is in the middle of nowhere. Having declined the collectivo driver’s offer, I found myself with a bit of a problem as most people seem to visit Moray on a tour. There were therefore no obvious taxis. There was nothing for it. I started walking! It was still a beautiful day, the scenery was still spectacular and I had all afternoon. However, the road was very dusty and there were sufficient vehicles to make it not quite as enjoyable as it could have been. Fortunately, I hadn’t gone far when a taxi stopped and only charged 5 soles to return to Maras. It was obviously my lucky day!

The road back from Moray
The road back from Moray

In the back seat were a young Peruvian couple. On arrival in Maras, they asked the taxi driver where the track was to the Salinas (salt beds), which was about 6km away and the other main attraction of the area. The taxi driver assumed that I would want to visit them as well (I did) and told me to go with the young couple, so I did. (They didn’t seem to have much say in the matter!)

The walk down to Salinas
The walk down to Salinas
There are donkeys under there somewhere!
There are donkeys under there somewhere!
Terraces of salt beds
Terraces of salt beds

Having bought water and a quinoa ice cream (which tasted much better than expected), we set off. They, of course, were able to ask directions, Francie had some English and I could understand most of what Francisco said in Spanish. It was a beautiful walk down the valley, which we took quite slowly, so it was over an hour later when we arrived.

The salt beds are quite extraordinary in that they are all built in terraces on the hillside. Francie and Francisco had been told that they could walk right through to them to the other side and then descend into another valley and get a bus back to Urubamba. This we did.

Crusty salt
Crusty salt
The salt beds at Salinas
The salt beds at Salinas

It was a lovely walk, the only concern I had being that it was getting late and I knew that I would end up trying to find collectivos in the dark, which wasn’t my ideal. However, I had little choice but to follow them by this stage and I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure how much they appreciated my company though!

Salt beds cascading down the hillside
Salt beds cascading down the hillside

By the time we arrived at the collectivo station in Urubamba, it was well after 5pm. The others went off to find somewhere to eat and I caught a collectivo back to the junction at Poroy. The sun had set and the sky was a lovely pink colour above the raggedy mountains.

The valley on the other side of Salinas
The valley on the other side of Salinas

It was completely dark when I was dropped off and there was only a small light above the shop at the corner. My worst nightmare! Another lady was waiting and when a car approached, flashing its lights in the manner of collectivos trying to attract custom, I assumed it was a taxi and got in, having ascertained it was going to Izcuchaca. It was only when the lady kissed the driver that I realised it was her husband and not a taxi! Whoops! They dropped me off in Izcuchaca anyway, I gave them the collectivo fare and tried not to think about getting into cars with strange people in a foreign country in the dark!

Finding the collectivo back to Huaracondo was even more of a mission. Streets are not well lit and, on asking, I was directed from one end of the street to the other. It is made harder by the fact that not all collectivos have their destination written on the front so you have to ask the people who are hustling for the business. I eventually found one (after starting to panic slightly) and learned from Lyle, when I returned at 7pm, that the collectivo station closes at 6pm and the collectivos then leave from the other end of the street – hence the conflicting directions. I was just very relieved to have returned safely and sat down to appreciate a much needed glass of wine and dinner.

Moving to Huaracondo

View from my window in Huaracondo
View from my window in Huaracondo

I was very pleased to be leaving my accommodation today as I hadn’t been overimpressed with it. JJ is very friendly but the room itself is very basic and the mattress is diabolical. It was also very cold, although that is true of most rooms in Cusco, and it never got any sun. The best part was actually the view and the fact, with two windows, it was very light.

I had booked an Airbnb room in Huarocondo, which is totally off the tourist trail, but the room looked very nice and luxurious by comparison to my accommodation of this week (and only a couple of dollars more). I had intended to take collectivos to get there but Lyle, my host, was dropping off guests at the airport so I arranged to go back with him (for a fee, of course!) This meant I had most of the morning to fill in, as he wasn’t picking me up until 1pm.

I sorted my belongings and walked down town to my cafe, where I am now recognised! I sat for a while over coffee and then strolled over to the plaza, in which I was to meet Lyle. Whilst waiting, I ate a sandwich and people watched, an occupation with which I am now becoming quite expert.

The main plaza in Huaracondo
The main plaza in Huaracondo

Lyle arrived right on time and we headed off, stopping at Izcuchaca to go to the market and bakery on the way back to the house. Thankfully, my room lived up to expectations and, for the first time in several weeks, I unpacked a few things out of my pack.

The agricultural plain outside Huaracondo
The agricultural plain outside Huaracondo

In the late afternoon, I took a short walk around the town, which is quite small with most houses made of adobe. I was the only gringo (or should I say, gringa) around so felt as though I was sticking out like a sore thumb but I am sure people here must be used to seeing Lyle and Lily’s (who is Peruvian) guests around town.

Looking towards Huaracondo
Looking towards Huaracondo

The town itself is renowned for its roast pig (lechon) and there are stalls set up around the main plaza with ladies selling it. I shall certainly have to try it. For this evening though, I have arranged to have dinner with Lyle and Lily, an option which strikes me as being extremely easy, particularly as there are few choices for dinner in town.

Taking the livestock home for the night
Taking the livestock home for the night